Mexico is teetering on the edge of all-out internal war between the government and the drug cartels. The latest news indicates large ramp-ups of troops sent to Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. It is my opinion that Mexico is acting in the most responsible way it can to curtail the influence and horrendous violence practiced by the drug cartels but it is becoming increasing clear that this is a war they (we) cannot win. But it is a war with an immediate solution, legalization of illicit drugs in the United States. It is clear that our thirst for illicit drugs drives the violent actions of the drug cartels. Until this market is eliminated the war will have no end and innocent people on both sides of the border will continue to live in terror.
I have a stake in this, I admit. A large portion of my extended family lives on either side of the Texas-Mexico border. They live in what used to be sleepy little mining and farming towns that have now become increasing targets for drug cartels as violence spreads East from Cuidad Juarez and West from Nuevo Laredo. While it would be an exaggeration to say that they are living in fear right now, it is obvious that the drug cartels are shifting their sphere of influence to these areas and that soon the entire border will turn into a war zone. Violence will increase, innocent people will be killed for no reason, decent politicians will be corrupted or killed, young women will become targets for sex crimes and imprisonment in the sex trade and economic opportunities for honest, hard-working Mexicans will dry up. In my view, there is only one available solution: legalization.
The Economist has an article up now arguing for this solution and stating how it might be put into practice. The reasoning is solid and the practicalities are persuasive. In particular, they argue that legalization will improve society’s ability to deal with addiction disease in a more thorough and rationale manner:
What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.
By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope.
It is time to rethink our failing approach to the drug war. Mexico needs our help to pull itself back from the brink of all-out war. The immediately available solution is the reformation of our illegal drug laws. It will reduce violence in Mexico, it will improve Mexico’s economic outlook over the long-term, it will help addicts and it will reduce the burden on our prisons.